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Ariel Castro sentenced to life without parole

2:13 PM, Aug 1, 2013   |    comments
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  • Ariel Castro, center, sits with his defense attorneys, Craig Weintraub, left, and Jaye Schlachet, during a pretrial hearing on June 19.(Photo: Jason Miller, AP)
  • A 10-foot chain link fence surrounds the home of Ariel Castro in Cleveland.(Photo: Mark Duncan, AP)
    

Update: 2:09 p.m.

Ariel Castro, the former Cleveland school bus driver who pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and abuse of three young women that went on for more than a decade, was sentenced Thursday to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

Castro's sentence - which was expected under a plea agreement reached last week - came after the Puerto Rico native argued with Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo over being called a sexual predator. He repeatedly denied that he had tortured Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight after he kidnapped them between 2002 to 2004, holding them captive in his home until Berry managed to alert a neighbor and escape on May 6.

Russo said Castro's "merciless acts deserve maximum prison time. No single prison term adequately reflects the enormity of your conduct."

"I still feel based upon the information you've provided to the court that you feel you are a victim," Russo told Castro, who blamed his problems on sexual abuse as a child and a long-time addiction to pornography. "You haven't been a victim, you've been a victimizer. The three young women should have been free to live their lives. They shouldn't have been locked in a house, in deplorable conditions."

Castro, 53, pleaded guilty to 937 charges last week, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, to avoid the death penalty.

Castro fathered a child with Berry. The girl, born on Christmas Day, is now 6. Knight was impregnated repeatedly by Castro, who beat and starved her, resulting in her miscarrying five times. A tearful Knight, now 32, testified earlier Thursday that Castro had put her through hell. "Your hell is just beginning,'' she said.

"I will live on. You will die a little bit every day,'' said Knight. She told Castro he was a hypocrite for going to church on Sundays, then returning home "to torture" her, Berry and DeJesus.

"Days never got shorter. Days turned into night, night turned into years. Years turned into eternity,'' said Knight, who said her ordeal was made harder knowing that she might never seen her son, Joey, who was 2 1/2 at the time she was kidnapped.

Castro issued a brief apology at the onset of the hearing and later repeated it after a rambling statement in which he claimed "I'm not a monster." Heavily shackled and wearing his orange jail jumpsuit, the self-described pornography addict said he wasn't "trying to make excuses" for his criminal acts but deferred blame for his actions on the victims and the FBI.

Castro claimed that "there was a lot of harmony" in his home among his victims.

But a series of law enforcement officials and a psychiatrist painted a far grisly portrait, detailing years of sexual, emotional and physical torture Castro forced upon his victims, including binding them with chains, repeated beatings and putting a gun to their heads.

And while his attorney, Craig Weintraub, said Castro has "significant undisclosed mental illness," Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist who reviewed Castro's interrogation, testified that Castro had no "mental illness whatsoever" and had been methodical in keeping the women captive and avoiding detection.

Dave Jacob, a Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputy who interrogated Castro following his arrest, said Castro described himself as a sexual predator and said he imprisoned the women to satisfy his sexual desires.

Each of the women was lured to the house, either with a promise of a ride, a visit with Castro's daughter or, in Knight's case, a puppy for her son.

Once in the house, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum, Castro kept them chained and locked in the upstairs rooms or subjected them to "the cold of the basement and the heat of the attic as punishment techniques."

The document states that "the victims of the defendant's heinous crimes did everything humanly possible to retain a sense of normalcy. They were able to mark the passage of time through the maintenance of diaries. Several diary entries document abuse and life as a captive."

At the sentencing, Castro was also prohibited from ever seeing the daughter he fathered with Berry. "She's a victim,'' the judge told Castro.

Anthony Castro, a 31-year-old son from Castro's first marriage, has said he won't visit his father in prison.

As part of the plea agreement, Castro will give up his Seymour Avenue home, which will be demolished.

Contributing: WKYC-TV


Previous Story

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Ohio man convicted of holding three women captive in his Cleveland house over a decade and raping them repeatedly has been sentenced to life without parole.

Fifty-three-year-old Ariel Castro was being given his sentence Thursday. He had pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault.

He got the life term for the most serious count and was getting additional time for the hundreds of other counts.

A plea deal struck last week spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving a pregnant victim until she miscarried.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

They escaped to freedom May 6 when one of them, Amanda Berry, broke out part of the door to Castro's house and yelled to neighbors for help.

Update: 12:47 p.m.

Gary Strauss, USA TODAY

Michelle Knight, one of the three victims kidnapped and abused by Ariel Castro for more than a decade, chided the former school bus driver at his sentencing hearing Thursday, saying, "your hell is just beginning."

Knight, who was impregnated by Castro, then starved and beaten so she miscarried five times, tearfully told Castro "you took 11 years of my life away."

"I will live on. You will die a little bit every day,'' Knight said. She told Castro he was a hypocrite for going to church on Sundays, then returning home "to torture" her, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus

"Days never go shorter. Days turned into night, night turned into years. Years turned into eternity,'' Knight said.

Castro, 53, pleaded guilty to 937 charges last week, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, to avoid the death penalty. Under terms of the plea deal, he'll get life imprisonment, plus 1,000 years, with no chance for parole.

Castro kidnapped Berry, DeJesus and Knight between 2002 and 2004, fathering a Christmas Day child with Berry. The girl is now 6.

The three have rarely been seen in public since they were rescued from Castro's home May 6. Berry, 27, appeared on stage at a Nelly concert two days after Castro's plea, while DeJesus was seen when a tall privacy fence was built around her home last weekend.

Castro's sentencing hearing began with the former school bus driver apologizing to his victims.

Heavily shackled and wearing his orange jail jumpsuit, Castro was led into the courtroom at 9:23 a.m. "I want to apologize to the victims,'' Castro said at the outset. He's expected to give a statement explaining his life, which he said previously had been impacted by being sexually abused as a child and a long-time addiction to pornography.

Later, a series of law enforcement officials detailed some of the grisly details behind the years of sexual, emotional and physical torture Castro forced upon his victims, including binding them with chains, repeated beatings and putting a gun to their heads.

His attorney, Craig Weintraub, said Castro has "significant undisclosed mental illness."

But Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist who reviewed Castro's interrogation, later testified that Castro had no "mental illness whatsoever" and had been methodical in keeping the women captive and avoiding detection.

Dave Jacob, a Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputy who interrogated Castro following his arrest, said Castro described himself as a sexual predator and said he imprisoned the women to satisfy his sexual desires.

The testimony is part of prosecutors' plan to lay out a compelling case of how Castro's actions impacted his victims' lives. The sentencing hearing "is about making clear this man's acts had on his victims and this community,'' said Joseph Frolik, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office.

"We understand we're not putting on a criminal trial. But we're glad at the prospect of closure for the victims and the community," Frolik said.

Before the hearing, prosecutors set up a model of Castro's house, which was expected to show where and how Castro held and tormented his victims.

Each of the women was lured to the house, either with a promise of a ride, a visit with Castro's daughter or, in Knight's case, a puppy for her son.

Once in the house, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum, Castro kept them chained and locked in the upstairs rooms or subjected them to "the cold of the basement and the heat of the attic as punishment techniques."

According to the memo, Castro told his captives that "he had other victims and that some of them made it home but that others had not."

The document states that "the victims of the defendant's heinous crimes did everything humanly possible to retain a sense of normalcy. They were able to mark the passage of time through the maintenance of diaries. Several diary entries document abuse and life as a captive."

At the time of his plea, Castro told Judge Michael Russo that he was addicted to pornography, had long-running sexual problems and had been sexually abused as a child. But until Thursday, Castro offered no remorse for the kidnappings and no apologies.

McGinty has said he'll ask Russo to prohibit Castro from ever seeing the daughter he fathered with Berry. Anthony Castro, a 31-year-old son from Castro's first marriage, has said he won't visit his father in prison.

As part of the plea agreement, Castro will give up his Seymour Avenue home, which will be demolished.

Contributing: WKYC-TV

Previous Story

The sentencing hearing for the Cleveland man responsible for the kidnapping and rape of three women for more than a decade has gotten underway.

Heavily shackled and wearing his orange jail jumpsuit, Ariel Castro was led into the courtroom at 9:23 a.m. He's expected to give a statement explaining his life, which he said previously had been impacted by being sexually abused as a child and a long-time addiction to pornography.

"I want to apologize to the victims,'' Castro said at the outset.

His attorney, Craig Weintraub, said Castro has "significant undisclosed mental illness."

Castro, 53, pleaded guilty to 937 charges last week, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, to avoid the death penalty conviction. Under terms of the plea deal, he'll get life imprisonment, plus 1,000 years, with no chance for parole.

Still, the sentencing hearing "is about making clear this man's acts had on his victims and this community,'' says Joseph Frolik, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office.

Prosecutors plan to lay out a compelling case on how the former school bus driver's actions impacted his victims' lives for more than a decade.

Before the hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but delayed 25 minutes, prosecutors set up a model of Castro's house, which was expected to show where and how Castro held and tormented his victims.

Castro kidnapped Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight between 2002 and 2004, fathering a Christmas Day child with Berry, now 6, He also beat and starved Knight when she became pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

The three have rarely been seen in public since they were rescued from Castro's home in May. Berry, 27, appeared on stage at a Nelly concert two days after Castro's plea, while DeJesus was seen as a tall privacy fence was built around her home last weekend. use.

Neither Frolik or Jones Day, the law firm representing the victims, would confirm if they'll testify.

"We've got a list of potential witnesses, but we're still working on our game plan,'' Frolik says. "We understand we're not putting on a criminal trial. But we're glad at the prospect of closure for the victims and the community."

CNN reported that Knight would speak, citing Castro's sister and an unnamed official.

In a memorandum filed Wednesday night, prosecutors say they intend to detail how Castro lured the three women to his house, then used physical and mental restraints to control them for a decade.

The three women held captive in the run-down home kept diaries documenting the physical and sexual abuse they suffered on a daily basis, prosecutors said.

Each of the victims was lured to the house, either with a promise of a ride, a visit with Castro's daughter or, in Knight's case, a puppy for her son.

Once in the house, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty says in the sentencing memorandum, Castro would keep them chained and locked in the upstairs rooms or subjected them to "the cold of the basement and the heat of the attic as punishment techniques."

McGinty said Castro kept a gun "and threatened to shoot the captives if they ever tried to escape."

One of the women broke free in May and called for help.

According to the memo, Castro told his captives that "he had other victims and that some of them made it home but that others had not."

The document states that "the victims of the defendant's heinous crimes did everything humanly possible to retain a sense of normalcy. They were able to mark the passage of time through the maintenance of diaries. Several diary entries document abuse and life as a captive."

At the time of his plea, Castro told Judge Michael Russo that he was addicted to pornography, had long-running sexual problems and had been sexually abused as a child. But Castro offered no remorse for the kidnappings and no apologies to the victims.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty has said he'll ask Russo to prohibit Castro from ever seeing the daughter he fathered with Berry. Anthony Castro, a 31-year-old son from Castro's first marriage, has said he won't visit his father in prison.

McGinty also discounted Castro's courtroom statements.

"He's a thespian playing a contrite act,'' McGinty said after hearing Castro's courtroom comments. "I think he's a coward. He's in his own world, and it's not a world of remorse or regret."

As part of the plea agreement, Castro will give up his Seymour Avenue home, which will be demolished.

Contributing: WKYC-TV

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